New York’s small landlords are calling on the state to release some of the $1.3 billion earmarked in federal rent relief funds to help them save their properties.
The call came after President Joe Biden extended the national eviction moratorium through June.
“The extension of the federal eviction moratorium is not surprising, but it’s cause for alarm because it continues to ignore the real problems for tenants and owners that eventually have to be addressed. The deeper tenants go into rent arrears, the less likely they will ever be able to play catch-up,” said Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords of more than 1 million apartments in neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs.
“But the real question is: Why have more than a dozen states – and counting – been able to get programs up-and-running since February that are putting the recent round of federal rent relief funds into the hands of financially desperate tenants, and yet Albany lawmakers and the governor have failed to distribute even a single dollar of the $1.3 billion in federal rent relief earmarked for New York renters?
“They were too busy giving high priority to the legalization of marijuana, rather than getting hundreds of millions of dollars in rent relief out the door and giving New York families one less thing to worry about.”
The Cuomo administration wants to include the federal funds for New York in the upcoming state budget. But the RSA said the money is needed now
“New York is home to some of the lowest income tenants in the country. Washington should be asking New York lawmakers – like Sen. Chuck Schumer – why federal dollars still haven’t been distributed to families in need,” Strasburg said.
On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio applauded the eviction moratorium but acknowledged small landlords in particular are hurting.
“If you can afford to pay your rent, you should, because the folks who are trying to keep the buildings up do need the resources to do that,” said the mayor. “But if you can’t pay, you can’t pay, and we want to make sure people get to stay in their apartments. So, keeping the moratoriums in place long enough for folks to actually get their incomes back as crucial.”
De Blasio said his administration is working with tenants and small businesses to make sure they get “everything that is due to them” in terms of stimulus money.
In December, the state enacted the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 which restricts landlords from evicting New York tenants and property owners who are facing financial hardship during the pandemic until May 1, 2021.
In order to qualify, tenants and property owners must submit a hardship declaration to the landlord, the court, or an officer enforcing an eviction
But without the federal aid, Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program or CHIP, said the debt is piling up.
“We’re adding debt to people who cannot afford it,” said Martin, noting that many residential landlords have fallen behind in property tax payments.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer reported that, as of February, 2021, $1.3 billion in real estate tax payments were overdue – equal to 4.5 percent of the total $29.6 billion due.